New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: L

Tippy Larkin

Tippy Larkin (Boxing. Born, Garfield, NJ, Nov. 11, 1917; died, Passaic, NJ, Dec. 10, 1991.) Born Anthony Pilleteri, Tippy Larkin was an active and popular welterweight who fought 153 pro bouts in 17 years (1935-52). Larkin fought 33 times in various clubs and arenas in Newark, N.J., and throughout New Jersey dozens of other times in Jersey City, Garfield, Trenton, Asbury Park, Elizabeth, Long Branch, and Passaic, among others. More impressively, he fought 19 times in main events at Madison Square Garden. Larkin lost only 13 fights in his career and for several years held the junior welterweight title he won from Willie Joyce in Boston in 1946.

Art Larsen

Art Larsen (Tennis. Born, Hayward, CA, Apr. 17. 1925; died, San Leandro, CA, Dec. 7, 2012.) A rangy lefthander, Arthur David Larsen won the U.S. national singles in 1950, his only trip to the championship match, defeating Herb Flam, 6-3, 4-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, at Forest Hills. Larsen was ranked in the U.S. Top 10 seven times (1947-56) and was No. 1 in 1950. He was a California collegiate star whose career ended with a motorcycle crash in 1956.

Don Larsen

Don Larsen (Baseball. Born, Michigan City, IN, Aug. 7, 1929.) Many players in baseball history are widely remembered for a single achievement only; Don James Larsen is probably the most famous for having that distinction, his achievement being so spectacular. On Oct. 8, 1956, at Yankee Stadium, in the fifth game of a tied World Series, Larsen threw a 97-pitch perfect game against Brooklyn. The bulky (6’4”, 220 pounds) righthander struck out seven, including pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell for the final out. The rest of Larsen’s career was ordinary. Obtained by the Yankees from Baltimore after the 1954 season, he spent the first part of 1955 in the minors. Larsen was 9-2 for the Yankees over the second half of the season, 11-5 in 1956 and 10-4 in 1957. He was also often used as a pinch-hitter by Casey Stengel. Overall, he had an 81-91 record in a 14-year career with seven teams (1953-67) and was 45-24 with the Yankees before being dealt to Kansas City in the trade that brought Roger Maris to New York.

Greg Larson

Greg Larson (Pro football. Born, Minneapolis, MN, Nov. 15, 1939.) Captain of Minnesota’s 1961 Rose Bowl team, Gregory Kenneth Larson eventually succeeded Ray Wietecha as the Giants center after being chosen in the sixth round of the 1961 N.F.L. draft. As a rookie, Larson played mostly tackle. A guard in 1962, he moved to center when Wietecha retired after that season. Larson underwent reconstructive knee surgery in 1964 but came back and made the Pro Bowl in 1968. He played 13 seasons (1961-73) with the Giants.

Lyn Lary

Lyn Lary (Baseball. Born, Armona, CA, Jan. 28, 1906; died, Downey, CA, Jan. 9, 1973.) Primarily a shortstop, Lynford Hobart Lary played a bit over five seasons for the Yankees (1929-34). Lary and second baseman Jimmy Reese were purchased for $125,000 from Oakland of the Pacific Coast League in 1929. He was the regular in 1931, playing 155 games and costing Lou Gehrig the home run title. Lary ran into the dugout thinking the ball had been caught, on a Gehrig homer in Washington. Gehrig was called out for passing a baserunner and finished with 46 homers, the same total as teammate Babe Ruth. In 1932, Frank Crosetti began to play shortstop regularly and Lary was traded to Boston on May 15, 1934.

Wimpy Lassiter

Wimpy Lassiter (Billiards. Born, Elizabeth City, NC, Nov. 5, 1918; died, Elizabeth City, NC, Oct. 25, 1988.) His full name was Luther Clement Lassiter but he was known universally on the billiards circuit as “Wimpy,” which name derived from his childhood habit of devouring hamburgers (as did a character, named Wimpy, in “Popeye” cartoons), not because of lack of nerve. Lassiter was considered one of the greatest nine-ball billiard players who ever competed and once earned $11,000 in a single night at his specialty. In the 1940s and 1950s, Lassiter played in tournaments throughout the world and when not engaged in tournament play, could be found in billiard parlors giving exhibitions or hustling up games. Wimpy took up the game of pool when he was 13 years old and three years later dropped out of school to pursue his hobby as a full-time profession. After service in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, he became a professional and first came into prominence when he won an unsanctioned tournament in 1954. When the international championships were restored in 1963, Lassiter became one of the leading challengers. Over the next dozen years, he captured six world championships. Lassiter “thrived on the game of pool,” said Willie Mosconi, a 15-time world champion. Such was Lassister’s dedication to the game that he played daily after ill health forced his retirement from the billiards circuit and when he died he was found a few feet from his table on which remained his cue stick, a cue ball and seven balls.

Cookie Lavagetto

Cookie Lavagetto (Baseball. Born, Oakland, CA, Dec. 1, 1912; died, Orinda, CA, Aug. 10, 1990.) Carving his name into the list of Brooklyn baseball legends with one swing, Harry Arthur Lavagetto broke up the fourth game of the 1947 World Series and ended Yankees pitcher Bill Bevens’ bid for the first Series no-hitter ever. Lavagetto sliced a two-run double off the rightfield wall at Ebbets Field with two out in the ninth inning to give Brooklyn a 3-2 victory. It was his last hit in a big league uniform. Lavagetto came to the Dodgers from Pittsburgh Dec. 4, 1936, and was an All-Star third baseman four times (1938-41). He was 1-for-10 in the 1941 World Series. Lavagetto returned to the Dodgers as a part-time third baseman in 1946 after military service. He hit .269 in his 10-year career (.300 in 1939). He later coached the Dodgers (1951-53) and managed the original Washington Senators (1957-60) and Minnesota (1961).

Tony Lavelli

Tony Lavelli (College basketball. Born, Somerville, MA, July 11, 1926; died, Laconia, NH, Jan. 8, 1998.) In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Anthony Lavelli, Jr., became a national figure as a leading scorer for Yale’s basketball team. As a freshman, Lavelli appeared in all 15 varsity games, scoring 320 points (21.3 per game), a very high figure for the time, on a 14-1 team. On Feb. 2, 1946, he scored 39 points against Army. At 6’3”, 185 pounds, Lavelli was a formidable court presence with a wide array of shots. In his senior season (1948-49), Yale was 22-8 and Lavelli was the team captain, averaging 22.4 points per game, with two 40-point-plus games, including a 52-point performance against Williams Feb. 26, 1949. He was chosen the collegiate player of the year by several groups. Lavelli was also a talented accordion player who sometimes gave concerts at halftime. He finished with 1,964 points in 97 career games (20.2 average).

Rod Laver

Rod Laver (Tennis. Born, Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, Aug. 9, 1938.) Rodney George Laver, ironically, was born in the year that America’s Don Budge became the first player ever to win the tennis “Grand Slam.” The irony, of course, is that years later, Laver became the second man to win the Grand Slam and, subsequently, the first man to do it twice. At New York’s Forest Hills, Laver made the U.S. nationals final in men’s singles three straight years, 1960-62, but won only the third time. In that year, he also won the Wimbledon, French and Australian singles crowns to complete the coveted “Grand Slam.” Laver was rated as the world’s No. 1 player in 1961 and 1962 but then turned professional. In the era before open tennis, Laver’s turning pro took him out of the world rankings. But at the dawn of the open era in 1968, Laver returned as the No. 1 player in the world. In 1969, he again won the “Grand Slam,” this time as a pro, and he was again ranked No. 1. To complete the Slam, Laver struggled through a four-set victory over countryman Tony Roche after dropping the first set in a match played on soggy grass after a day’s rain delay. Laver switched from sneakers to spikes in the first set for better traction. One of Laver’s last major wins in the United States came in 1970, when he captured the Marlboro Open played in Orange, N.J.

Bobby Layne

Bobby Layne (Pro football. Born, Santa Ana, TX, Dec. 19, 1926; died, Lubbock, TX, Dec. 1, 1986.) With a pro football war raging between the N.F.L. and the upstart A.A.F.C., the Chicago Bears decided to loan promising quarterback prospect Robert Lawrence Layne to the New York Bulldogs for the 1949 season. The Bulldogs, formerly a Boston team, were shifted to New York to ensure that an N.F.L. game would be played in the Polo Grounds no matter when the A.A.F.C. Yankees were scheduled at the Stadium. Layne was 155-for-299 (51.8%), passing for 1,796 yards with 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. After the season, the A.A.F.C. folded and the Bears decided to send Layne to Detroit. They kept Johnny Lujack instead. Two years later, Lujack was finished, while Layne lasted until 1962 and became a pro star.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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